Growing up Latina

Growing up is already an overwhelming time with dealing with puberty, school bullies, and just overall changes you’re going through. Growing up Latina has its own struggles and obstacles. All my friends and I have had different experiences growing up in Hispanic households. Some grew up in families whose parents were very strict, and others had parents who were more lenient. My parents? A good balance of both. 

I don’t want to say my childhood was awful, because it certainly wasn’t but I experienced things from a young age that most people didn’t. To begin, I started school halfway through kindergarten and barely knew English. I was in a completely new place without knowing anyone but family, it was scary. 

Elementary eventually got a lot better. I learned fluent English by first grade and performed well in my classes. But I felt… different. As I started meeting other kids in my classes of Hispanic heritage I would think “I look nothing like them.” None of my siblings or I look what people think Latin people should look like. We’re Argentinian and most of us have lighter skin, blonde hair, and light-colored eyes. But I was proud of who I was.. Right?

In 3rd grade, my mom was pregnant with my younger sister. She would depend heavily on me to help around the house. This was when my mom taught me how to cook and eventually say the words that stuck with me forever, “you need to learn how to cook for your future husband and kids.” I was nine years old. When my sister was born that summer, my mom still relied heavily on me for help. But I didn’t mind... Right?

Middle school was my hardest year. My middle school consisted mainly of students of Hispanic and African American backgrounds. I was trying so hard to fit in that I lost sight of who I really was. But I couldn’t talk to anyone in my family about it because they wouldn’t understand. I hate to say it but at this point I was embarrassed, almost ashamed, of my background. I would ask myself why I didn’t look like my other Hispanic friends. Why didn’t I have long dark hair? Why couldn’t I be tanner or have darker colored eyes? All the while, my mom continued relying on me for help. 

I convinced myself at this point that I would marry a Latin man so I could have a last name that would match my ethnicity. I decided this at 12 years old. 

Along came high school. When I got to high school, I started realizing that my parents were a lot more lenient with my brothers than with me. Even as I got older, I always felt criticized and like I was on the spot. My nickname growing up was “gorda” and while many think of it as endearing, I hated it. My mom started criticizing how I looked. I had bad acne in high school and my mom would always point it out. I wasn’t the skinniest girl and my mom would always make comments. I always felt like everything I did was wrong. I still do. I never feel like I make my family proud. I constantly question myself and what I do. 

I started dating my boyfriend senior year of high school and I remember feeling so incredibly nervous to tell my parents about him. I was scared my parents would disapprove because he wasn’t Hispanic. My parents ended up loving him just as much as I do. 

I could never forget what I went through growing up with my family. I was a frustrated teenager and even up until I moved out. I was the only one to go to college, and I think that’s maybe why I was held to different standards. Even now, my younger sister gets away with a lot more than I ever could’ve. 

It was difficult, and even now as I write about my experience, I feel myself getting emotional. But I believe everything I went through has helped make me a stronger person. All the traits in my parents I thought were negative that I got, weren’t as negative as I thought. 

My mom, easily the most caring woman I know. She would do anything for us in a heartbeat. She loves to have fun and let loose. I thank her for that part of me. 

My dad, emotional but he’s so passionate and same as my mom, would do anything for us. He’s also a crazy driver so maybe that part I could do without. 

I’m grateful I grew up with the life I did. Although I was taught early on how to cook and clean, my parents have also been supportive in anything I choose to do in life. My parents taught me how to be loving towards other people. My brothers taught me how to be more fun and how to fight. My younger sister taught me not to take life so seriously. 

Now, I don’t care that I don’t look like your stereotypical Latina. And I don’t care that I don’t have a stereotypical Hispanic family. I’m very proud of who I am and I forever will be.